Protestors Demanding More Homeless Housing Interrupt Council Hearing

Interrupting testimony from the city’s housing agency at a Council budget hearing today, advocates called for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing plan to set aside more units for homeless and lower-income New Yorkers.

“Mayor de Blasio, we have 63,000 New Yorkers living in shelters, shame on you,” one activist with the House Our Future NY campaign shouted during acting Housing Preservation and Development commissioner Eric Enderlin’s testimony. A small group in the Council Chambers’ upper-level seating began chanting, “House the homeless.”

The call reflects a growing criticism that the mayor’s ambitious housing agenda is not addressing the needs of the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

The existing plan — which calls for creating or preserving 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026 — sets aside 5 percent of units for the homeless. Activists are calling for the housing plan to set aside 30,000 units for homeless households, or 10 percent, and they want 24,000 of those units to be new construction.

Following the brief protest, Enderlin said that the agency is “building homeless housing at a faster pace than ever before, with nearly 10,000 units since the beginning of this plan in 2014.” He also noted the agency “overhauled” its term sheets in 2017 to require greater set-asides for homeless housing.

“My concern, and the larger concern of many New Yorkers, is that it’s just simply not enough,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson at the hearing.

Council Member Rafael Salamanca is pushing a bill, which currently has enough sponsors to override a mayoral veto, that would require developments receiving city subsidies to set aside 15 percent of units for homeless households. The de Blasio administration is opposed to the measure.

Enderlin noted progress made by the administration so far, and said at its current rate, the plan is on track to produce about 24,000 units of homeless housing, adding, “we’re already well beyond 5 [percent].”

He added that the administration has produced more housing in the lower income tiers than was originally laid out and is “pushing even harder in that direction.”

On the broader breakdown of income tiers in the plan, he added, “We also believe that producing as much housing as quickly as possible matters.”

Enderlin reiterated the administration’s concerns with a Council homeless set-aside bill, saying legislating a defined set-side could reduce the agency’s flexibility in negotiating deals and could slow overall housing production.

This piece originally appeared on PoliticoPro

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